Ingredient Snapshot: Today, Equinom, the company on a mission to cultivate plant-based ingredients that are truly better for people and our planet, announced it achieved a record 75% protein content—breaking its previous record of 70%, which is currently ready for commercialization—in an exploratory minimally processed pea protein ingredient, developed with the aim of pushing the boundaries of protein content in sustainable plant-based ingredients. To achieve this breakthrough, Equinom bred new varieties of yellow peas using its Manna technology platform, which identifies desirable traits for food applications in the genetic structure of seeds and predicts the best cross-breeding matches to yield better varieties—without genetic engineering. Given the exceptionally high protein content and other traits bred into the source crops, Equinom Pea Protein (EPP) uniquely delivers the most desirable qualities of both pea protein isolates (generally used in food applications) and pea protein concentrates (generally suitable for pet food and fillers).
Based on current market research and publicly available information, there is no other pea protein ingredient on the market today that has reached this high level of protein content without the use of chemical processing. In addition to the high-protein content, EPP offers food functionality such as emulsification, foaming and gelation of a pea protein isolate but with the high solubility and light color of a concentrate, along with the lower production costs and sustainability benefits that come with minimal processing. EPP also offers additional benefits beyond those found in commercially available isolates including high fiber and significantly less sodium (a residual from Sodium Hydroxide used in wet processing of pea protein isolates). While advancements still need to be made to produce this level of protein content at commercial scale, this achievement demonstrates the company’s ability to rapidly develop unique plant protein ingredients optimized for food applications that enable food manufacturers to better meet consumer demands for more delicious, nutritious, affordable, and planet-friendly products.
Until now, commercially available pea protein isolates have relied on wet-fractionation, a type of processing which uses chemicals, water and energy to extract the protein. In this in-house trial, Equinom tested the ability to extract protein from its advanced pea varieties using only dry fractionation, which is significantly more sustainable and cost-effective, as it uses only milling and air to mechanically separate protein from the pea. The methods and results of the trial were as follows:
- Equinom used its high-protein advanced yellow pea variety, which was naturally cross-bred to deliver up to 35% protein content (with no genetic engineering).
- This compares to a standard range of 21% to 25% protein for yellow peas.
- The high protein content, unique structure and biochemical composition bred into the Equinom peas resulted in higher protein separation efficiency, protein yield and protein purity.
- The Equinom pea variety delivered 75% protein content with 14% protein yield in the minimally processed pea protein, while a commercially available pea variety with 22.4% protein content used as a comparison gave only 57.7% protein at only 9.25% protein yield. The results of the in-house trial were validated by external labs.
While the 14% yield associated with the 75% protein content is below efficiency targets, Equinom has already developed a pea protein ingredient with 70% protein content—its previous record—that is currently ready for commercialization. Plant proteins with 65% protein content or higher are more readily texturized for use in alternative meat applications, and both the exploratory and commercial-ready innovations from Equinom have exceeded this barrier, which can create new sustainable options for plant-based food manufacturers. The results of the exploratory EPP further demonstrate the ability of the company’s technology platform and mission to cultivate plant-based ingredients that are truly better for people and our planet by breeding higher quality, non-GMO crops that are optimized for food and need only minimal processing.
“We’re proud of this significant achievement with our pea protein and are truly excited by the possibilities our innovative approach can unlock for food companies and consumers of plant-based foods,” said Sigal Meirovitch, senior director of protein research & development at Equinom. “As the need for heavy processing of pea protein is a major bottleneck for the sustainability and affordability of plant-based foods, we see this scientific discovery as a real game changer for the industry.”
The achievement follows significant team growth with multiple executive hires in the U.S. as Equinom prepares for accelerated growth in the North American market. In recent months, Equinom appointed Nestlé veteran and former CEO of Noosa Yoghurt, Frank Higgins as executive vice president, strategy to oversee the strategic direction of the organization as it enters a new growth phase. Longtime marketing consultant and former CMO of Bonduelle Fresh Americas, Galit Feinreich, joined as chief marketing officer where she manages high-performance marketing and brand-building strategies to drive awareness and position Equinom as a leader in plant-based, non-GMO ingredients.